The Chicago Blackhawks are getting Tyler Johnson back from injured reserve to start the season's second half.
It is an ideal time for him to return. Not only because the offense is struggling, but also because he is the one player the Hawks can put on the trade market and get a decent return in a deal.
Right now the Blackhawks are looking at a quiet trade deadline after last year's firesale.
The Hawks signed forwards Jason Dickinson and Nick Foligno along with goalie Petr Mrazek to contract extensions. Those were three pending unrestricted free agents that could have brought back more assets toward the Hawks' rebuild. Instead, their veteran presence will be used to help get the Blackhawks through the middle stages of this rebuild.
That leaves Johnson as the only pending UFA with some trade value to move before the trade deadline in early March. He will not bring back a second-round pick like what the Blackhawks got for Max Domi before last year's deadline. Maybe a contender might be willing to send a conditional third-round selection or a young player for a veteran center who has won two Stanley Cups.
Johnson is still a solid offensive player with nine goals on the season before he went on injured reserve. He has registered 30 or more points in eight of his 12 NHL seasons. Johnson has 141 career power-play assists.
That is a player a contender can use to center a third line or the second in a pinch. He can also play on the wing. He is not very expensive either as he is wrapping a deal that comes with a $5 million cap hit. The Hawks could make him cheaper by retaining some of his salary too like they did with Jake McCabe last year. The Blackhawks are not going to get a first-round pick and Joey Anderson back for Johnson as they did when the Hawks sent McCabe and Sam Lafferty to Toronto.
The Hawks might be hard-pressed to get a conditional second if they threw in Colin Blackwell and a couple of late-round picks. Still, there should be a market for the 33-year-old center/wing to acquire a decent draft pick or a young player with some upside.
There is some early speculation the New York Rangers could be interested in trading for Johnson.
The Rangers need a third-line center after Filip Chytil was ruled out for the season. Johnson's name has been floated around as that replacement for Chytil.
Sportsnet NHL insider Elliotte Friedman thinks Johnson going to the Rangers makes sense.
What trade assets do the Rangers have?
The Rangers might need to ship out a player to make room for Johnson's salary cap hit since they are right at the cap ceiling. Kaapo Kakko has a $2.1 salary cap charge that could be swapped with Johnson's cap figure if the Hawks retain 50%. He is rumored to be on the trade block, is 22, and a change of scenery might be what his career needs. Kakko will be a restricted free agent after the season.
In terms of draft picks, the Rangers have already traded away their 2024 third-round pick. The Hawks own New York's 2025 third rounder from the Patrick Kane deal last year. The Rangers also do not have a second-round draft choice in 2025 and 2026. They do have their 2024 second-round selection along with the fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-round choices.
New York does not have the rights to their fourth-round pick in 2025 but has the rights to Dallas'. They also have two fifth-round choices in 2025.
The Rangers have the 22nd-ranked prospect system according to TheHockeyWriters.com. New York's Original Six team has some talented players in their pipeline despite the low ranking, but Johnson is unlikely to fetch some of those prized prospects.
Johnson's skills and experience would fill a need the Rangers have. They do seem like a decent trade partner to fetch a future asset. Considering the Hawks could lose Tyler for nothing in the summer, it could not hurt to see what the franchise could get from New York for Johnson.